Cherry blossoms help MARC set weekend ridership record

A total of 13,338 people rode MARC trains along the Penn Line this weekend, setting a record for the new service as many made their way to Washington for cherry blossom celebrations.

That's more than triple the number — 4,085 — who rode the service in its first weekend of operations, in December.

Weekend service began with $46 million in funding put toward the state transportation department's six-year budget and raised through an increase in the state's new gas tax, after years of cost being cited as an obstacle to the expansion.

In a statement, Gov. Martin O'Malley touted the high numbers of travelers this weekend as validation of the decision to invest in the service.

"Our investments in expanding MARC service have allowed more Marylanders to enjoy the weekend sights and sounds of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. without having to get behind the wheel of their cars," O'Malley said.

He also said the weekend expansion will "help us meet our goals of doubling transit ridership by 2020 and reducing Maryland's greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020."

Officials also added more capacity to weekend trains in March, citing steadily increasing ridership.

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